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#1 Racecog55

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Posted 03 November 2019 - 07:38 PM

Attn: Celestron, Meade, Explore Scientific, etc.-for several years now I have been unhappy with how unnecessarily complicated it is to set up a scope on a mount and get it aligned. I'm no neophyte, but have been active for many years and struggled for most of it with recalcitrant equipment and software. Many wasted hours that could have been spent viewing. If I had a penny for every swear word an astrophotgrapher has uttered trying to set up a scope at various star parties, I'd have much better equipment and be driving a Lambo.

 

I talked to a representative of a major retailer, and he responded to my complaints with " that's how we sell you more stuff". For what its worth, that is true, I bought a computer controlled mount that needed a two star alignment and have added a GPS, and a sensor that sets up the mount by taking pictures of the sky and comparing them to its own star maps. After all this, on line, and the retailer representative, both advised me to " hit the master reset before every viewing session". Which means wasting 30 minutes or more. About the time a two star alignment takes. 

 

As far as the 'selling more stuff' comment goes, I think you vendors should all take a look at online sales websites around the USA and assess how many scopes and mounts are for sale. Probably a small fraction of the equipment sitting in dark corners in garages, unused and unwanted. Yes you made a sale, but have you really thought about it? All of these people are potential customers for better equipment over the years as they progress with this hobby. You have lost all these potential customers, as they gave up out of frustration. How many future customers have you lost, after watching their parents struggle unsuccessfully with with entry level automated mounts? You have, and are,  frittering away millions in profits, not to mention doing astronomy a disservice in general. 

 

How about a reasonably priced mount with GPS and starmap capability that doesn't need a polar alignment. How about "plug and play"? Maybe an 80MM refractor with electronically enhanced viewing? Do this for less than $1000.00, and I predict you'll have a Happy Christmas, and a much brighter future.     



#2 mich_al

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Posted 03 November 2019 - 09:11 PM

Marketing is a science existing to enhance sellers pocketbooks in the short term.  What you propose is something to enhance another thing.



#3 halx

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 02:02 AM

Perhaps, vendors have led you in the wrong direction pondering by their ads years after years? Most folks get this passion following after the big astronomy science or space exploration events and discoveries, so their ultimate goal is to match the science in some departments, which will require more and more investments into the equipment to get on par. Scientists have the GoTo? I want the GoTo on my scope. They are imaging with CCDs? I need one too! And so on. Rarely an amateur could match an astronomy equipment budget of even smallest university, vendors understand that, so most of the equipment we are getting is a compromise between the manufacturing cost and quality.

OTOH. I've been lucky to start from the opposite end (big science, professional instruments, meaningful work at real observatories, some space tech involvement, etc). Now, exactly 40 years later, I have a simple all manual solid OTA 12" Dob with Telrad and the best on the planet pocket star charting app. All of which I can haul in my bare hands, set without a flashlight in 5 minutes left-handed (with the beer bottle in the right hand for the counterbalance), and watch hundreds of real starry sky's wonders directly with my own eyes almost continuously without any distractions (except too vocal coyotes at times) from down all the way till dusk. That's because my hobby time have been converted into some useful observing skills instead of the cheap hardware troubleshooting knowledge. Such skills are superior to any consumer grade GoTo with GPS or without.


Edited by halx, 04 November 2019 - 02:05 AM.

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#4 sg6

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 03:33 AM

I think it is us not vendors.

Polar alignment is fundimentally easy: Level the mount, Set Latitude, Aim mount North, look through the small scope and make fine adjustments with the 4 small adjusters.

 

People try just about everything to not do it. Do I need to level the mount? Well technically no but then nothing else makes sense. Where is North? Sure many do not know which is Polaris. Seems a good percentage use the main scope to polar align also.

 

Solution: Buy equipment and an app that does it - problem don't know how to set up the equipment and apps are beyond them.

 

Goto alignment: Lets see - We are supposed to be astronomers. Goto alignment needs us to identify 5 or 6 suitable stars, select 2 or 3 from a list and stick those 2 maybe 3 in the center of view. OK as well as set up the mount - again LEVEL the thing. Ever get the idea lots of astronomers cannot identify say 6 significant stars? I do.

 

Solution: More equipment and apps. Again these introduce more problems.

 

Finder scope: How many are not aligned with the main scope. I am betting 40+%

 

Just about everything we do needs a well set up mount and many try to skip that aspect. The better set up the easier to following bits are: Tracking is easier, goto is more accurate, life is just easier.

 

The additional equipment is I believe to make it easier to perform something we know how to do, does not mean we do not need to learn the basics, but that seems the approach taken mainly: I have an app called  "Do It All" so I need do nothing and know nothing.

 

If vendors brought out a series of useless and pointless apps, people would buy them. Just so long as they sound right.


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#5 Diana N

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 09:19 AM

As far as the 'selling more stuff' comment goes, I think you vendors should all take a look at online sales websites around the USA and assess how many scopes and mounts are for sale. Probably a small fraction of the equipment sitting in dark corners in garages, unused and unwanted. Yes you made a sale, but have you really thought about it? All of these people are potential customers for better equipment over the years as they progress with this hobby. You have lost all these potential customers, as they gave up out of frustration.   

Better equipment will not make up for a lack of passion.  Most people leave this hobby simply because they have at best a casual interest in the night sky.


Edited by Diana N, 04 November 2019 - 09:27 AM.

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#6 Eddgie

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 10:17 AM

Attn: Celestron, Meade, Explore Scientific, etc.-for several years now I have been unhappy with how unnecessarily complicated it is to set up a scope on a mount and get it aligned. I'm no neophyte, but have been active for many years and struggled for most of it with recalcitrant equipment and software. Many wasted hours that could have been spent viewing. If I had a penny for every swear word an astrophotgrapher has uttered trying to set up a scope at various star parties, I'd have much better equipment and be driving a Lambo.

 

I talked to a representative of a major retailer, and he responded to my complaints with " that's how we sell you more stuff". For what its worth, that is true, I bought a computer controlled mount that needed a two star alignment and have added a GPS, and a sensor that sets up the mount by taking pictures of the sky and comparing them to its own star maps. After all this, on line, and the retailer representative, both advised me to " hit the master reset before every viewing session". Which means wasting 30 minutes or more. About the time a two star alignment takes. 

 

As far as the 'selling more stuff' comment goes, I think you vendors should all take a look at online sales websites around the USA and assess how many scopes and mounts are for sale. Probably a small fraction of the equipment sitting in dark corners in garages, unused and unwanted. Yes you made a sale, but have you really thought about it? All of these people are potential customers for better equipment over the years as they progress with this hobby. You have lost all these potential customers, as they gave up out of frustration. How many future customers have you lost, after watching their parents struggle unsuccessfully with with entry level automated mounts? You have, and are,  frittering away millions in profits, not to mention doing astronomy a disservice in general. 

 

How about a reasonably priced mount with GPS and starmap capability that doesn't need a polar alignment. How about "plug and play"? Maybe an 80MM refractor with electronically enhanced viewing? Do this for less than $1000.00, and I predict you'll have a Happy Christmas, and a much brighter future.     

I am sad for you.  You sound very frustrated. 

 

If you are going to image, then a polar alignment is essential and to automate that, you would need a scope with motors to correct the altitude and azimuth or you would have to build a guider into the mount. Imagine how expensive that would be. 

 

People don't want to spend a lot of money on stuff and adding a lot of features raises the price.

 

If you are visual only, here is a mount that has built in GPS, one star alignment (though the mount has to be leveled, but this is made easy in this design) and can mount two telescopes. It is over your budget, but it is one of the simplest and sturdiest mounts you can buy at the price.

 

https://www.ioptron....duct-p/8900.htm

 

I have the older version of this called the Minitower Pro.   I have owned mounts costing up to $3500, and this has by far been my favorite mount ever.  It is small and light, sturdy, easy to set up, has built in GPS, great pointing accuracy even with just a one star alighment, and carries two telescopes. 

 

But you still have to level it.  It sounds like you just want to put the mount on the ground, turn it on, put on your telescope, push a button, and start observing. 

 

 

If you are imaging though, and you move the scope, then your life will be a bit more complicated and even when portable, very expensive mounts will still require a lot of effort to polar align.   

 

If that is bothersome and you image, consider image intensified or EAA.  Perfect alignment is not at all essential.

 

I took these by hand holding my cell phone to the eyepiece of my iOptrion Minitower Pro (North American) and my 12" dob (Crescent).  There are no wires, no external power supplies, no polar alignment, no software processing, or any or that stuff.  I only took the picture to share.  I can see this view at the eyepiece. 

  

 

 

 

NA2.jpg

 

This next picture was taken from my Bortle 8 sky.  Again, just a cell phone held to the eyepiece and while the mount is Go2, it is only Alt-az so it is not a polar aligned scope. For a couple of seconds exposure time, you really don't even need that. 

 

Crescent.jpg

 

Sure. they are not perfect like you can do with a good mount, a careful polar alignment, a good camera, a few hours of time, and some processing, but it sure is simple.. LOL. 

 

EAA cameras are a bit more complex, but they also don't need exact polar alignment and are much less expensive than image intensified, though they do require a bit of software work.  Because the exposure times are short, it greatly simplifies things.  If you want things simplified, I recommend EAA / image intensified.

 

So, if you are that frustrated, don't blame the consumer companies that strive to make their equipment as affordable as possible.  That won't  do anything to make you feel better. Consider your tolerance for things that cause you pain, and consider taking a different path.

 

That is why I do image intensified these days.  And even taking these snapshots is more bother than I want in my life.  I am mostly content to just look at these things rather than take picture of them, but I do that to share what I can see at the eyepiece.   I am not particularly into using any kind of camera but other NV astronomers are getting amazing results, but again, I just want simple.

 

And if you want simple, consider other options that eliminate a lot of the things that frustrate youYour post is not going to change anything, and generally if you can't change the environment, you are better off adapting to it as best as you can. 

 

If you want really beautiful long exposure astro-photos, unless you have a permanent pier and good mount, expect a lot of frustration and even a bigger checkbook won't fix polar alignment, though it might make it a bit easier. 


Edited by Eddgie, 04 November 2019 - 10:24 AM.

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#7 Racecog55

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 03:12 PM

Turning a casual interest into a passion is my point. Most of us have gone through the learning curves and have persevered. I understand that. Many nights on my knees twiddling knobs above my head trying to get Polaris into alignment. Standing in twilight aligning a finder scope with the main tube. Studying star charts and determining approximate locations of things in the dark night sky. Studying instruction manuals translated from Chinese into English, and so on. Been there, still doing that.  

 

Embrace the pain, right? That's the answer?

 

My question is how many more of us would be active in this hobby if some of this 'pain level' was reduced? How much more money would be in the pockets of company owners if a small fraction of the 'telescopes on Craiglist' crowd were selling to upgrade, rather than abandon the hobby altogether?

 

Of course, I realize there is a price point question here.  What I'm suggesting here is reasonably priced equipment with a lower 'pain factor'. There are cameras and GPS in every cell phone, right? Mounting a cell phone as a camera and reading/time location can't be that expensive, can it? Can it be that hard?



#8 macdonjh

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 03:41 PM

 

How about a reasonably priced mount with GPS and starmap capability that doesn't need a polar alignment. How about "plug and play"?      

Isn't that what the LX65 (Meade) and SE or Evolution (Celestron) packages are?  The Celestron 4" Maksutov, C5 and C6 SE packages are all less than $1000.  Enough less to add a GPS.

 

Meade also has the LX850 with Star Lock.  Significantly more than $1000, but supposed to be all-in-one plug-and-play.  More capability means more expense.  One member of the the club I belong to has one and likes it a lot.  Of course, the LX800 is a German equatorial mount, so it needs to be polar aligned.

 

Then there's the option for a Dobsonian with a printed compass circle, smart phone inclinometer and SkySafari...


Edited by macdonjh, 04 November 2019 - 03:42 PM.

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#9 Diana N

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 06:25 PM

Turning a casual interest into a passion is my point. Most of us have gone through the learning curves and have persevered. I understand that. Many nights on my knees twiddling knobs above my head trying to get Polaris into alignment. Standing in twilight aligning a finder scope with the main tube. Studying star charts and determining approximate locations of things in the dark night sky. Studying instruction manuals translated from Chinese into English, and so on. Been there, still doing that.  

 

Embrace the pain, right? That's the answer?

 

My question is how many more of us would be active in this hobby if some of this 'pain level' was reduced?

Very few.  What's keeping most people out of the hobby is that astronomy (in their eyes) is too much work for too little payoff.  Other than the moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and (infrequently) Mars everything you point a scope at is either a very small disk, a star, or a faint, fuzzy cloud.  To most people, looking at stars gets boring fast, and so does looking at faint fuzzy grey things.  As far as they are concerned, if you've seen one faint fuzzy you've seen them all.  Even when it comes to the moon and the impressive planets, there's a limit to how much time they are willing to look at them.  APOD offers much more satisfying views, and it's free.

 

Now add to those facts the reality that astronomy requires staying up late and battling bugs in the summer, dew for 3/4 of the year, and cold in the winter, and increasingly light pollution everywhere, and is it really any wonder that the scope ends up in the closet and the TV turned on instead?

 

The problem isn't one that tech will solve, any more than bird ID smartphone apps have changed the reality that birding is mostly about getting up before the sun rises to spend a couple of hours tramping around outside looking for small, fast-moving critters that just won't stay still and pose long enough for their field markings to be readily identifiable.  The fascination (with the heavens or with feathered things) just isn't there in most people to support much significant progress in either field.  And that's fine!  Just as there's no problem with the average person being unwilling to learn anything more than how to identify the most common birds that visit his bird feeder, there's nothing wrong with the average person going no further than looking up and admiring the sky occasionally, learning a few of the brighter constellations, and being able to tell a planet from a star.  In both cases, that's better than nothing.  And it's as far as the AVERAGE person is ever going to go in either hobby, tech or no tech.


Edited by Diana N, 04 November 2019 - 08:47 PM.

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#10 lphilpot  Happy Birthday!

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 07:09 PM

My question is how many more of us would be active in this hobby if some of this 'pain level' was reduced?

 

I don't want to veer too closely to "get off my lawn" territory, but I really don't think it would make too much of a difference. It would, no doubt, be a net gain of course, but I suspect those who want to just be shown a few things with little to no effort really have no inherent interest in astronomy, telescopes or whatever. They're just looking to be minimally entertained and it better be instantaneous, by George.

 

I don't want hardware (nor software!) that actively impedes what I'm trying to do, but "figuring it all out" (to a reasonable degree) is part of what attracts me. I like the hunt - Whether in the eyepiece, for the next scope tweak, another interesting software package, etc. It's fun for me, as long as it's just not completely broken and useless.


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#11 steveyo

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 07:10 PM

My Dob is ready, from car trunk to viewing, in 30 seconds. If I want to collimate, then that takes me another 2 minutes.

 

Just sayin'...


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#12 The Ardent

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 07:15 PM

people who enjoy reading Burnham’s Celestial Handbook over and over are usually successful at astronomy, whether visual or imaging.
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#13 SamplingNature

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 10:15 PM

Wow! I just use a decent compass, a bullseye level, a line level and my cellphone...
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#14 AtmosFearIC

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 02:24 AM

As an imager that sets up every night (planning a ROR in the future) I use a compass to get my tripod pointing within 1-3º of the pole. A level to get the tripod top level. My mobile to get the inclination of the mount correct. In under 2 minutes I have a nearly polar aligned mount with a compass, spirit level and my mobile.

 

Using a GoTo Alt/Az mount it becomes even easier as I don't have to worry about polar alignment, just a level tripod. As an imager I know the locations of objects better than stars (not useful for 2-star-align) so I check an app on my phone, pick two stars are use those for my Go-To alignment routine. Whole process takes less than 5 minutes. Your phone has an inbuilt GPS so buying a GPS unit saves a whole 15 seconds of putting it in manually although in saying that my first telescope was a Meade LX200GPS and sometimes it took longer than that to get an accurate GPS fix anyway.

 

Becoming familiar with your equipment can save you thousands and a lot of angst while setting up. With my Meade LX200GPS I'd just point it north (or south in my case being in the Southern Hemisphere), have the tripod as level as possible and tell it where to go. It's first point wasn't always that accurate but the second star was usually pretty good. From back of car to viewing could be done in under 5 minutes if there wasn't any technical issues which occasional cropped up.

 

Meade a few years ago had their LightSwitch series LS6 & LS8, you turned it on, told it to START and then you made yourself a cup of coffee, came back and it was ready to go. From what I heard they weren't that great but I believe a big part of that came from the cost of cameras back then and how far CMOS cameras have come in recent years since then.


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#15 Blackbelt76

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 08:56 AM

Turning a casual interest into a passion is my point. Most of us have gone through the learning curves and have persevered. I understand that. Many nights on my knees twiddling knobs above my head trying to get Polaris into alignment. Standing in twilight aligning a finder scope with the main tube. Studying star charts and determining approximate locations of things in the dark night sky. Studying instruction manuals translated from Chinese into English, and so on. Been there, still doing that.  

 

Embrace the pain, right? That's the answer?

 

My question is how many more of us would be active in this hobby if some of this 'pain level' was reduced? How much more money would be in the pockets of company owners if a small fraction of the 'telescopes on Craiglist' crowd were selling to upgrade, rather than abandon the hobby altogether?

 

Of course, I realize there is a price point question here.  What I'm suggesting here is reasonably priced equipment with a lower 'pain factor'. There are cameras and GPS in every cell phone, right? Mounting a cell phone as a camera and reading/time location can't be that expensive, can it? Can it be that hard?

Embrace the pain, right? That's the answer?

 

 

No. Embrace the discipline.

 

It's science; any of the sciences are considered disciplines for good reason.
Making things easier breeds laziness and does not necessarily attract more to a hobby.

I understand your basic premise; though I have found such logic to be faulty based
on my personal experience in Amateur Radio.

Years ago the FCC dropped the requirement of passing a morse code test to get the ham license.
They hoped it would attract more people into the hobby. It didn't.

 

This discussion could easily fall into more of a philosophical debate.

The old adage "If it were easy, everyone would do it"
..and "anything of worth requires work"

 

A lay person could easily perform a apendectomy if that was all they studied.
The surgery would certainly cost less as there would be many people doing it.
That is not how medicine produces physicians. It's a long hard road, and for good reason.

 

Life itself is hard, again; for good reason..it makes us better people, stronger etc...

 

I've recently re-ignited a old love for astronomy after a 30 year hiatus.
I had no GoTo scope, no auto guiding, no stacking software.
I was deeply involved in AP using cold cameras, film, gas hypered film, 1-2 hr exposures hand guiding.

Was it the *new* *easier* technology that brought me back? No.
Will it be more fun for me now? Probably; but not because of cost or ease of locating objects in the night sky.

 

In my ham radio example, eliminating the morse code requirement essentially brought in appliance
operators with little to no knowledge of electronics.
Worse; many of these people have a false sense of knowledge that they spread as factual.
This ^^^ is kinda' dangerous.

 

Remember when digital cameras came into their own? Prices plummeted.
We no longer had to spend money on film.

 

I am a professional photographer; a photo journalist.

What I saw for a few years was every Tom, Dick and Harry believing they were Ansel Adams, or had
the skills now to photograph a wedding for money.

The result? Some of the worst photography reared it's ugly head.

No longer did the person need to concern themselves with f/stops, depth of field, bokeh, composition, iso etc..etc...

Finally, when the dust settled, only those who understood photography remained standing.

Cell phone camera manufacturers brag about their cameras. Can't say I see a pro shooting much with their

800 dollar Apple phone. No sir, most of us use robust, expensive DSLR's or digital medium format.

 

Interestingly, the things I've worked hardest at to learn have become the most satisfying.

Appliance operators rarely grow, rarely contribute, rarely share..and rarely stick with it.

 

Understanding the basic science of celestial coordinates takes a little work.
The more we study, the more we understand, the more the commitment; the more we enjoy it.


Edited by Blackbelt76, 05 November 2019 - 08:57 AM.

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#16 Diana N

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 10:01 AM

No. Embrace the discipline.

 

It's science; any of the sciences are considered disciplines for good reason.

I have to disagree slightly with this, as very few amateur astronomers are doing any actual science.  Mostly we're just stargazing for personal enjoyment.

 

The more we study, the more we understand, the more the commitment; the more we enjoy it.

But I agree wholeheartedly with the above!  The more we understand how the sky moves and changes, and the more we know the true nature of the objects we are looking at, the more we get out of our time under the stars.  It's that knowledge that makes the dim points of light and the faint grey fuzzies we spend so much time looking at interesting to observe.

 

Skip that learning, and the whole enterprise becomes very dull very quickly.



#17 racecog56

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 11:54 AM

Interesting discussion with many viewpoints. I happen to run a boutique star party at a local hotel every Friday,  and attend the local clubs monthly star parties. I travel to other popular star parties in nearby states. Astronomy is not a solitary pursuit for me, it’s a social event. 
 

I get asked all the time about starting out. I answer this with ‘ Go online,, and do some familiarization, get a planisphere or star map software and buy a set of binoculars . Of course, keep attending star parties and keep talking to friendly astronomers.’
 

This gives me a different perspective. I witness the awe and enthusiasm from youngsters and adults at every event. I’d like this enthusiasm be converted into participation. As much as I enjoy the company of mostly 60+ Male, ‘disciplined’ amateur astronomers,  some diversification would be welcome. 
 

Our club has 3000 plus members. 10-20 or so members show up at star parties. How do we increase participation, support STEM,  get people interested in learning more about the skies, and yes, more customers for vendors.?



#18 Diana N

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 12:34 PM

This gives me a different perspective. I witness the awe and enthusiasm from youngsters and adults at every event. I’d like this enthusiasm be converted into participation. 

But you have to be realistic and accept that in most cases, it won't be, because the enthusiasm you are seeing in most cases is only an inch deep.  Remember, at outreach events you are showing the public the brightest and most spectacular objects in the night sky.  It's all literally downhill from there.  After they've looked through a telescope a few times, the average person gets bored with the whole business.  Just like enjoying a walk through a rose garden doesn't prompt a serious interest in botany in most people, taking a gaze at Saturn through a telescope doesn't turn most people into astronomy enthusiasts. 

 

Now, the ones who follow your advice and get a planisphere and some binoculars and maybe a moon map and start to use them - THEY may go on to become amateur astronomers (because they've shown they have enough interest to actually put in some work on their own).


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#19 MalVeauX

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 01:14 PM

You're asking for Apple level R&D and polish for a super-super-super-super-niche hobby with a very, very small real customer base.

 

And I'm not trying to dismiss the concept, I think we can all appreciate the idea that a much easier to use and more automated product could be produced. The problem is money, it costs money to R&D that stuff and make it happen and still turn a profit, but the problem is the people buying this stuff do not just buy a new mount every few months.

 

Very best,


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#20 Blackbelt76

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 01:58 PM

I have to disagree slightly with this, as very few amateur astronomers are doing any actual science.  Mostly we're just stargazing for personal enjoyment.

 

But I agree wholeheartedly with the above!  The more we understand how the sky moves and changes, and the more we know the true nature of the objects we are looking at, the more we get out of our time under the stars.  It's that knowledge that makes the dim points of light and the faint grey fuzzies we spend so much time looking at interesting to observe.

 

Skip that learning, and the whole enterprise becomes very dull very quickly.

The discipline I speak of when considering this science is just that. Astronomy is a science as is optics etc...

It takes some discipline to learn something new.

If it is just given to us on a platter, most will become bored and have no impetus to continue forward.

I've seen this at star parties for the general public. "Oh, that's interesting"..and off they go to get a hot chocolate, rarely to return to see what else is there to see.

 

We have GoTo mounts now; seems pretty easy after some basic setup and practice.

Compared to 30 yrs ago when we did NOT have GoTo; I doubt there are more amateurs now than back then.

 

I remember my first encounter with astronomy..

I was 10 yrs old and had a super cheap 20 dollar telescope on a 10 inch rickity tripod.

As I poked it around the sky at anything bright, for the first time I saw Saturn and it's rings!

No one forced me to enjoy this hobby; it was in me and up to me to pursue it; either on my own or with some guidance.

 

Had someone given me a 14" SCT, with a perfectly aligned GEM with GoTo..I doubt I would have stayed interested.

 

The OP wants the manufacturers to serve it up on a platter w/o any work on the users part.

I just don't believe such a approach works with anything in life. 


Edited by Blackbelt76, 05 November 2019 - 02:04 PM.


#21 Diana N

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 02:28 PM

The OP wants the manufacturers to serve it up on a platter w/o any work on the users part.

I just don't believe such a approach works with anything in life. 

I think we're saying the same thing, just from different angles.  The OP thinks most people who give astronomy a try drop out because it's too hard, but in fact it's the other way around.  It's too hard because they just don't have any deep interest in the subject.  For activities those people DO have a true interest in, the same amount of work isn't hard at all, because they honestly enjoy what they are doing.

 

I look at myself.  A few of the hobbies I've stuck with long-term include astronomy, birding, keeping tropical fish, gardening (especially orchid growing), and horseback riding.  But I've tried and did NOT enjoy cooking, sewing, various craft projects/working with my hands on things, team sports, playing piano, drawing and painting, and dance.

 

Would I become a better cook if I signed up for one of those "meal in a box" services such as Blue Apron to reduce the work of cooking?  No, because while I enjoy a good meal someone else has prepared I just don't like to cook, period.  I enjoy listening to music just enough to buy a season ticket to the symphony, but I don't enjoy it enough to play much music at home, let alone sign up again for piano lessons.  Did I become a proficient enough rider to jump a horse over large fences because riding is easier to learn than soccer?  Somehow I don't think so!

 

It's the underlying interest that makes the work involved bearable (or even enjoyable), for any activity.  No real interest, and the work is just plain work.  That's true for any hobby, not just astronomy.


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#22 Sketcher

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 04:33 PM

This hobby can be as simple or as complicated as its practitioners want it to be; and for some, the more (electric) power it takes, the more whirling motors, the more wires, the more glowing LEDs, the more gadgets involved -- the better it is.  Manufacturers and vendors work to provide what the people want, often without regard as to whether or not a product is actually necessary.  People want it.  People are willing to pay for it.  So manufacturers and vendors supply it.  So if anyone wants to pass blame, guess where it ends up?

 

I manually point my telescopes at my desired targets.  I manually track objects when necessary.  I do my own polar alignment when necessary.  When I go out with a telescope there's no power cord, not even to a battery pack.  There's no computer, no smart phone, no electronic tablet, no electronic atlases, no motors, etc.  I don't need any of that stuff when I'm out observing.

 

If someone doesn't want "complicated", they should avoid buying "complicated".

 

As time moves us all forward, more and more people enter this hobby with less and less background knowledge.  More often now we hear:  "Well, I don't want to learn how to polar align a telescope."  "I don't want to learn the night sky."  "I don't want to learn how to point a telescope at Neptune."  So now we're seeing more go-to mounts, more mounts that (attempt to) polar align themselves, more systems that can fail and prematurely end an observing session, etc.

 

Don't blame the manufacturers and vendors for doing the best they can to satisfy an increasingly demanding, ignorant, and helpless clientele.


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#23 WadeH237

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 04:52 PM

I have to disagree slightly with this, as very few amateur astronomers are doing any actual science.  Mostly we're just stargazing for personal enjoyment.

The points above apply to lots of things, not just science.

 

The more that I think about it, the more it seems that any activity that requires active participation - and not just passive observation - has a learning curve.  Sometimes the learning curve is gentle.  Sometimes it's steep.  But to get really good at any something, you need to make a commitment in learning, study. and practice.  You tend to get out of things, what you put into them.

 

You can't just pick up a paintbrush and make a masterpiece.  You can't just pick up a guitar and play a song.  You can't just hop into a car and win a race.  You can't just hop into an airplane and fly it.  You can't just wander into the Rockies and climb a mountain.  With some of these, you'll end up looking or sounding silly.  With some of them, you'll end up dead.

 

Why would astronomy be any different?


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#24 skyward_eyes

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 06:55 PM

This is a pretty large topic with a lot of points in it which I would like to discuss from a vendor stand point. I don't want this to come across as finger pointing but just from my experience professionally after dealing with companies and customer alike. 

 

Regardless of if you like it or not, imaging is the dominate interest and much of the development occurring these days is in support of this side of the hobby. Why? Because that is where most of the money is. In order for companies to stay relevant and focus on the interests of our customer we need to follow the trend. Right now the hot thing is imaging and its not going to change anytime soon. 

 

1) Plug & Play

 

"Plug and Play" is easy to say but not easy to develop. As many of us know astronomy is not the hottest hobby in the world, its a small little hobby in comparison to photography and such. Because of this there is not a ton of money flowing through it. There is money but not money like Apple and other tech based companies. Because of this development is slower in comparison to that of phone, computers, etc... This is why it takes a while for companies like Sky-Watcher to catch up to the more modern world such as adding USBs, WiFi and other basic connections. Its easy to tell us and likely we understand but there is just the reality of the matter as well, especially when a larger entity controls the final choices. Because of the limited stream of funds development can be slow (by today's tech standards). If there is a advance development it is usually found in higher end product. The problem is everyone wants the best stuff but usually isn't willing to pay for the cost of it, its a catch 22. We have a lot of people tell us "if you just did this" during shows, we hear you but its not that simple. 

 

Another issue with this "plug & play" thought is that with imaging there are a lot of things that need to work right to make your system run. You have a guider, camera, mount, telescope, maybe a filter wheel and motor focuer and that is just the hardware. Software is another key thing on this which complicates it even more. In order for a company to make this plug in play it would take a ton of R&D to create this and produce it in hopes someone would buy it. The problem is everyone wants to use this component or that camera, etc... etc... No system is one in the same, ever, and ever owner wants to do something a little different or has different needs. It is not a one size fits all problem so trying to develop an answer that fits one need doesn't always meet another. 

 

2) Time & Effort

 

Imaging is hard and requires a lot of time and effort. If you are getting into this and expecting to get an amazing picture your first night out you are generally dreaming. Like any hobby, discipline or similar activity it takes time to perfect. You are taking long exposures of a moving target that is billions of miles away, its a little complicated. You need everything to work perfectly in order to get that shot. Of course making things easier is always nice but the best way to simplify your efforts is practice. I tell many customers if you haven't had at least three nights cursing your gear you are not an imager. Its hard but over time you work at it and it gets easier. I believe this makes acquiring your first true image even sweeter when all your efforts pay off. 

 

What issues I see from a lot of people is they try to cram too many things into one period of time. People don't want to take the time to really learn a system, they just want the settings and go out and capture great images. This is difficult when you are using one companies mount, another's camera and a collection of different software's. If something goes wrong the first thing most jump to is us stating its the mount's fault. There are so many settings in these softwares and so many things to tinker with it leaves a mine field of issues that can occur. While I understand people want to get out and enjoy it, it is going to take time for you to learn everything. Try to focus on one piece at a time: mount, telescope, alignment, imaging, guiding., etc...

 

We can produce things to try and make things easier but it is still going to take time for you to learn it and understand the process. It is also going to cost money to produce these things and we are trying to run companies that pay people to live their lives too. Its not as easy as the "just do this and you golden" thought, if it was easy then everyone would do it. If you want a turn key system then look at the new Stellina telescope, it has everything you want but it cost $4000, tech costs money. 

 

So for now, like anything else, astronomy takes effort. 


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#25 racecog56

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Posted 05 November 2019 - 09:38 PM

 Hello skyward eyes. I understand many, and agree with most, of your observations. Of course, one has to have the expectation of profit, prior to developing and introducing a new product. Depending on the realization of those expectations, product support is forthcoming, or not.

 

My hypothesis is that the high barriers to entry, like first cost, lack of support, poorly implemented products, etc. is limiting product sales and profit potential. Are the ‘majors’ actively doing market research (recognizing that we have been throughout period of consolidation, with most ending up in the hands of GSO, etc.) to determine why people enter, then abandon the hobby? As I pointed out, has anyone looked at all the post consumer product up for sale and why? These people are all potential consumers the industry has ‘lost’. Why?




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